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Wearing the Ribbon

Hello! So it’s the 1st of December. Pinch, punch first of the month!

If you’re in England, this is the last day of the 2nd lockdown and we’re are going to see localised restrictions from 2nd of December. We’re also in the first week of advent.

But since 1988, this is known as WORLD AIDS DAY!

This is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease. On this day, and the days leading to it, you will see red ribbons worn.

The red ribbon is the universal symbol of awareness and support for people living with HIV.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease. (Actually quite weird calling HIV as HIV virus, as than means human immunodeficiency virus VIRUS, lol! But we do it anyway!)

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when your immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus.

One cannot transfer AIDS from 1 person to another, but HIV can.

A person with a “weakened immune system” would likely have worse infections from diseases like flu and…Covid-19! Those on HIV treatment with a good CD4 count* and an undetectable viral load are not considered to have weakened immune systems. (*In molecular biology, CD4 (cluster of differentiation 4) is a glycoprotein found on the surface of immune cells)

CURE. There’s currently no cure for HIV, but there are very effective drug treatments that enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life. With an early diagnosis and effective treatments, most people with HIV will not develop any AIDS-related illnesses and will live a near-normal lifespan.

SYMPTOMS. Most people experience a short flu-like illness 2 to 6 weeks after HIV infection, which lasts for a week or 2. After these symptoms disappear, HIV may not cause any symptoms for many years, although the virus continues to damage your immune system.

This means many people with HIV do not know they’re infected.

CAUSES. HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person. This includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk. It’s a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long.

HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, urine or saliva.

The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is through having anal or vaginal sex without a condom. Sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment and transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding can also transmit HIV. Of course, there’s also a low risk from oral sex but that depends on some factors.

WHAT TO DO. Seek medical advice and get testested if you think you might have been exposed to HIV. If you are positive (or negative) you will be retested regularly.

TREATMENT. The treatment will be antivirals. The aim is to have an undetectable viral load.

People living with HIV are also encouraged to take regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, stop smoking , and have yearly flu jabs to minimise the risk of getting serious illnesses on top of their treatments.

Preventing HIV

Anyone who has sex without a condom or shares needles is at risk of HIV infection.

There are many effective ways to prevent or reduce the risk of HIV infection, including:

  • using a condom for sex
  • post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
  • pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
  • treatment for HIV to reduce the viral load to undetectable
  • if you use drugs, never sharing needles or other injecting equipment, including syringes, spoons and swabs

Speak to your local sexual health clinic or a GP for further advice about the best way to reduce your risk.

For people with HIV, if you have been taking effective HIV treatment and your viral load has been undetectable for 6 months or more, it means you cannot pass the virus on through sex.

Undetectable = Untransmissible

So this is not an in-depth view on HIV/AIDS but a quick and ‘good-enough’ overview of this disease.

This disease probably originated before the 1980’s and during the 80’s and 90’s, it was a taboo disease, filled with mis/malinformation (sounds familiar?). It still remains “un-talked” even these days!

This disease has been with us for a very long time and I personally know people who are living life with HIV.

This and the current Covid-19 pandemic are not far from each other. Both have relevances that are mirrored during these times. Both have revealed the best of humanity and the worst of it.

The essence of this “awareness days” is erm…AWARENESS!

IGNORANCE oftentimes become a precursor for mischief, impropriety and brutality!

There are plenty of resources if you want to know more. (NHS or Terrence Higgins Trust ). We are aiming to end HIV by 2030 but again this will only work if everyone gives a bit of an effort.

There is still no vaccine for HIV!

I know this blog is quite long but I am hopeful that someone out there would find something out of it.

But hey, 24 days before Christmas and most of my gym classes are being reinstated this week. Online classes remain- though reduced…and Zumba® Masterclass coming in less than 2 weeks.

There are plenty of things to be grateful for.

Be kind!